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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Alleged contractor conman gets 7 years

The case of Garrison Courtney, a former contractor and government employee who duped dozens of people into believing he was an undercover intelligence agent, is almost Hollywood-esque in its breadth, scope and sheer audacity.

Courtney was sentenced on Oct. 28 to seven years in prison on wire fraud charges he pled guilty to in June. It was something I had missed, but in reading the Washington Post’s account of his misdeeds they are truly jaw-dropping.

Courtney’s resume includes time spent as a public affairs officer for the Drug Enforcement Agency and at the Homeland Security Department. Once Courtney left government, he bounced around a few government contractors and eventually ended up at Blue Canopy, which is now part of Jacobs Engineering.

The Post quotes a letter Courtney wrote to the court describing how he convinced his bosses and other small defense contractors to pursue a purported classified project as part of secret task force. They would pay him to lead this effort and the government would reimburse him.

People believed him to the point that Blue Canopy hired lawyers to pursue $2 million they believed the government owed them.

He was able to wrangle meetings in secure government facilities, often with senior intelligence officials in attendance. The officials were giving generic briefings on classified contracting needs and not working on a secret task force, according to the Post.

But Courtney was able to spin the meetings into a tale that his victims believed. Part of his pitch was that he could direct contracts their way.

The incredible thing here is how people inside and outside of government believed him.

People were “determined for the ‘program’ to succeed,” the Post quotes a Courtney as having told a probation officer. “It seemed to me like the program was actually on the verge of becoming real or legitimate given who was involved and how it was operating.”

In another twist, several of the small defense contractors landed legitimate intelligence contracts because they had begun working together.

Courtney was able to get a job at NITAAC and directed one contract to a former employer in Riverside Research.

The house of cards collapsed when Courtney pitched the head of Air Force intelligence. He told then-Lt. Gen. Robert Otto that he was going undercover to expose would-be leakers and spies, the Post reports.

Otto was skeptical and by the time he and Courtney met, the general had been in contact with the FBI and was wearing a wire.

The end of the con had come for Courtney.

In the Justice Department’s new release announcing Courtney’s sentencing, DOJ described several actions Courtney allegedly took to undermine the investigation, including convincing a public official to try to stop a private company from responding to a grand jury subpoena.

Courtney convinced a civilian Air Force attorney to contact prosecutors to freeze that investigation. He got another public official to threaten FBI agents that they would be prosecuted if they continued their investigation.

Courtney had convinced people that even talking about the supposed task force would violate national security laws.

Maybe I’m naive, but the Post story and the DOJ release are mindboggling to me. How do people believe they can get away with it? But I’m not going to play amateur psychologist. I’m sure a book deal is on the way.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 02, 2020 at 8:58 AM

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